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Wash Away Your Sins

 

There are some who claim that “wash away your sins” refers to a subjective cleansing from sin rather than an objective cleansing, an actual cleansing from sin.  Edward Fudge states, “Even so, the “washing” of baptism can effect a powerful, subjective cleansing of the conscience—when as with Saul of Tarsus, it is done “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16) Questions and Answers, page 110. 

Plain Talk is not aware of anyone in the Restoration Movement who holds that baptism in water actually washes sin away. Everyone with even a cursory knowledge of the Scriptures realizes that the blood of our Lord washes our sins away.  But God could not have selected a more appropriate event to symbolize the actual cleaning by blood of the Lamb. The real issue is the timing.  When does the symbolic event occur in time, in reference to the objective, actual cleansing?  We suspect that Mr. Fudge wishes to argue that since baptism is only a subjective event it is not really necessary and may be omitted. I am not sure that I agree with the term subjective.  Baptism seems to be more a symbolic event than a subjective event

Through his name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.  (Acts 10: 43)

Repent therefore and return, that your sin may be wiped away.  (Acts 3: 19)

And now why do you delay?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.  (Acts 22: 16)

Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  (Acts 2: 38)

I have read this passage, Acts 22: 16, many times and I have never thought that Ananias was saying, “Arise and be baptized so that you will feel your sins are washed away.”  Even with Mr. Fudge’s prompting, I don’t believe that is the meaning.  Rather, I believe that you must have an agenda to understand the passage that way.  In my view Mr. Fudge has an agenda, to diminish the importance of baptism in the conversion narratives.  Many of the progressives in the Restoration Movement have come to the conclusion that baptism, as traditionally understood, is an impediment to the unity of believers.

 

How is the grace of remission of sins conveyed to those who are seeking God?

This grace, like the grace of regeneration, justification, salvation and eternal life, is conveyed through faith.

Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.  (Acts 10: 43)

But to as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.  (John 1: 12)

Therefore having been justified by faith  (Romans 5: 1)

For by grace have you been saved by faith.  (Ephesians 2: 8)

That whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3: 16)

 

When is the grace of remission of sins conveyed?

The grace is conveyed when works of faith, repentance confession, and baptism perfects faith.  Until faith is perfected it is ineffective in conveying the remission of sin.  James says that an unperfected faith is “dead” and “useless.”

 

How do we know this of a certainty?

God has revealed detailed information about the grace of justification.  We must turn to the story of Abraham because Abraham received the promise from God. Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.  (Genesis 15: 6)  James, the Lord’s brother, appealed to the story of Abraham when he offered up Isaac, his son, on the altar.  (James 2: 21)  James tells us that Abraham’s faith was perfected by works (of faith) when Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  (Genesis 22: 19)  Of course we know the story, the angel of the Lord prevented Abraham from slaying his son.  The angel of the Lord said, for now I know that you fear God.  (Genesis 22: 12)  The point James makes is that Abraham’s faith was perfected when he obeyed and it was this perfected faith that reckoned for righteousness.  James even quotes the verse, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.  (James 2: 23)  God does His work when our faith obeys.  The blood of Christ washes our sins away when we through faith are baptized into Christ.

 Paul makes the same point when he says For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.  (Galatians 5: 6)  Yes, faith is effective when it works through love.  The love of God activates our faith to obey. Repentance and baptism are the result.

 

Do the Scriptures verify this claim?

Yes, Peter says, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.  (1 Peter 1:2)  The blood of Christ cleanses our sins when we obey (baptized) by faith.  This is why the Apostle Peter could say, since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.  (1 Peter 1: 22) and baptism now saves you.  (1 Peter 3: 21)

 

What, according to Mr. Fudge, has been substituted for baptism?

On page 111 we find an amazing statement, “Indeed, throughout the book of Acts, gospel baptism occupies the place commonly given today to the “sinner’s prayer.”  Really!  Where does he get this information? Whose authority made this change?  Jesus said all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him, therefore he instructed the apostles to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and then teaching them to observe all that He had commanded.  (Matthew 28: 19, 20)

 The Scriptures tell us that Saul “was three days without sight, and neither ate or drank.”  We are also told that he was praying.  If any one would have been saved by the “sinner’s prayer,” Saul is the one.  And yet when Ananias came to him, he said, “And now why do you delay?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”   A fair reading of these words leads me to believe that Saul was still in his sin.

 

What was the state of mind of Paul immediately before he was baptized?

Mr. Fudge suggests that the then Saul, later to be called Paul, had no awareness of the forgiveness of sins.  (Plain Talk agrees, because they had not yet been forgiven).  He “needed to experience an act of cleansing to live with himself.”  This is pure fiction, pure speculation on the part of Mr. Fudge.  Why would Paul need an act of cleansing to live with himself if his sins had already been forgiven.

 

But what did Paul really think about his salvation? 

He made several statements in the many letters he wrote.

To Titus he wrote, “He (God) saved us (this would include Paul), not on the basis of deed which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”  Paul believed the washing of regeneration, among other things, saved him. 

 

What else did Paul think about baptism?  Plain Talk submits that these are objective events.

Other statements by Paul.

           (1 Corinthians 12: 13)

Some thoughts on the remission of sins.

And it shall be, that everyone who Calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Acts 2: 21)  In the Scriptures, but not the current religious world, calling on the name of the Lord is by baptism.  (Acts 22: 16)  Peter said that baptism, by which we are saved, is an appeal to God for a God conscience ----through the resurrection of Jesus.  (1 Peter 3: 21)

Conclusion:

Baptism is one of God’s great gifts to us.  Gone forever are those subjective appeals at the mourners’ bench for a salvation experience so that we might convince ourselves and others that we have been saved.  Our hope and assurance is that when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ. The mourner’s bench is a subjective experience; baptism is not a subjective experience.

 

God bless,

Arland Pafford,

 

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Last Update   09/26/12